Last month, the nation’s third largest home improvement chain – Menards – agreed to phase out the use of phthalates in its vinyl flooring by the end of the year. In a statement in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Menards spokesperson Jeff Abbot said, “We are still aware of the phthalate concern and have been working diligently with our vendors to eliminate any flooring products that contain phthalates.” Menards, which follows the lead of Home Depot and Lowes, has roughly 285 stores in 14 states.
This announcement follows a report by the Health Building Network (HBN) that the world’s largest flooring manufacturers, Mohawk and Tarkett, are also phasing out the use of phthalate plasticizers. Rochelle Routman, VP of sustainability for Mohawk, told HBN that it “long ago” phased out the use of ortho-phthalates in all the vinyl floors that it manufacturers, and is working to eliminate them from third party manufactured floors. HBN reported in April that Tarkett, the world’s second largest flooring company, has phased out the intentional addition of phthalates to its flooring.
The decisions by these major retailers and by global manufacturing companies portends an end to the use of phthalates in consumer products. Consumers simply do not want to take risks, especially with their children, that they can avoid.
The August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports makes clear what parents should do if they have vinyl flooring in their home – regularly mop vinyl floors that contain phthalates and wash toddlers’ hands, especially if children crawl on the floors. Consumers Union tested 17 vinyl floors and found small amounts of phthalates on the surface layers – enough however to warrant action by parents. “Although phthalate levels are very low, we recommend that parents of toddlers wet-mop often and wash those little hands after they’ve been crawling on a vinyl floor,” it reports. Frequent cleaning could help remove dust particles which are known to accumulate phthalates commonly used in these floorings.
Phthalates migrate from PVC, can accumulate in people’s bodies, and can cause developmental harm. Some phthalates are carcinogens.
Rather than worry about moping the floor and washing your children’s hands, most parents want nothing to do with vinyl flooring. The risks are too great and the market forces are following this lead.